UAW seeks to establish foothold in Volkswagen’s Tennessee facility

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 26, 2012

The UAW is working to get signatures of support from the workers at the U.S. factory of Volkswagen AG as part of its escalation efforts to set a foothold outside the Detroit automakers. In early March, the labor group began passing out authorization cards for workers to sign as an early formal step required for union representation, according to workers at the Tennessee factory in Chattanooga.

The plant opened in May 2011. Volkswagen has recently disclosed that it will hire 800 employees at the facility in efforts to increase production of the mid-sized Passat sedan.

According to UAW President Bob King, organizing U.S. factories operated by foreign carmakers -- "transplants" as they are known in the industry -- is vital for the survival of the union. After 30 years of declining memberships, the UAW is facing a financial crisis aggravated by the U.S. economic recession.

This has pushed the richest union in the USA to put its assets up for sale and to dip into its strike fund to pay for activities. Over the past months, the labor group has set up informal meetings with workers at VW's U.S. plant. King has also sought backing from German union IG Metall. According to the U.S. labor laws, a union must submit signature cards from at least 30 percent of the workers at a facility in order to hold a representation election.

The workers disclosed that the union has not approached all of the hourly employees in VW. A VW employee has revealed that the UAW has not informed the automaker regarding its effort to collect signatures.

This person further stated that it is "hard to know" how much "real momentum" the UAW has. Another person who is familiar with the UAW disclosed that it may talk about its organizing efforts early next month. The person did not know if the move would include VW. The sources sought anonymity due to the confidential plans of UAW. The automaker and the labor group declined to comment. [source: Autonews]

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